One quiet afternoon, I was sitting on my deck gazing at the splendor of the world around me and wondering if it would all come to an end someday. Suddenly, a hickory nut fell from the tree and bounced off my head.
It was a moment of epiphany; much like the moment an apple fell from a tree and hit Isaac Newton on the head. I realized there was a force holding everything together. But Newton discovered it first and called it gravity.
Sir Isaac Newton (1643- 1727) was a mathematician, physicist, astronomer, alchemist, philosopher and a guy who foolishly sat under apple trees. Many consider him to be the greatest figure in the history of science.
In 1687, he formulated the concept of universal gravitation and the three laws of motion.
Newton's First Law -- An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in uniform motion tends to stay in uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force. (Like my Uncle Leo and my ex-wife -- one tends to stay at rest and the other one tends to be in constant motion, especially when on a shopping spree).
Newton's Second Law -- An applied force on an object equals the time rate of change of its momentum. (Uncle Leo has no momentum and my ex-wife loses her momentum when the stores close).
Newton's Third Law -- Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. (When Uncle Leo eats too many beans the flies go away and when the ex-wife makes too many purchases the credit cards get maxed out).
Newton invented the reflecting telescope, formulated an empirical law of cooling, developed a theory of color, studied the speed of sound, proposed a theory of the origin of stars, contributed to the study of power series, enunciated the principles of conservation of momentum and angular momentum, and developed "Newton's Method" (the generalized binomial theorem for approximating the zeroes of a function).
In other words, he was a heavy hitter in the world of geeks and nerds.
One of Newton's great passions was his study of the Bible and of the early Church Fathers. He purportedly spent more time on the study of the Scriptures and pursuing alchemy than on science. He wrote, "I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily."
Of his scientific work, Newton wrote, "Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be."
In his textual work titled "An Historical Account of Two Corruptions of Scripture" he stated that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ took place on April 3 in 33 AD. He also attempted to find hidden messages within the Bible.
In the late 1930s, some of Isaac Newton's papers were found in a trunk at the house of the Earl of Portsmouth. These papers are presently on exhibit in Jerusalem's Hebrew University.
According to Yemima Ben-Menahem, one of the curators of the exhibition, "These documents show a scientist guided by religious fervor, by a desire to see God's actions in the world."
Some of the papers include mundane notes about Newton's income and the price of tin.
Using the Book of Daniel as his guide, Newton calculated the date for the Apocalypse to be in the year 2060.
The word "Apocalypse" was originally a term applied to the disclosure to certain privileged persons of something hidden from the mass of humanity. Today, it usually refers to the end of the world as we know it.
"It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner." Newton added. "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit."
Being a fanciful man who often makes rash conjectures, I once predicted the world would end the day I received my first Social Security check. That day has come and gone, so it's back to the drawing board for me.
Maybe the end of the world will never come and a hickory nut on the head is just a hickory nut on the head.
And maybe Newton was just another fanciful man making rash conjectures too. We'll all find out in 2060.